Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Lit-Crit Wednesday

There’s a sort of junk shop on my route home, which puts some of its wares out on the sidewalk to tempt passersby, and I always slow down to take a look at the book cart – I’ve scored a couple good things there, like an old hardback edition of Daphne duMaurier’s Don’t Look Now (Sars of Tomato Nation got me hip to that one) for a dollar. But most of it looks like the crap you’d find in a cardboard box in someone’s mom’s garage -- all these weird 70s and 80s diet fad books involving celery and leotards, “celebrity” biographies of J-list network TV eventual drug casualties, vaguely religious motivational/self-help stuff with covers that look like tampon ads, and YA novel series that obviously couldn't get a toehold in a Sweet Valley High world.

And of course, the romance novels – row after row of nothing but adjectives, adverbs and blushing.

More than once in my life as a cube-dweller, I’ve thought, “Well hell, I could make a living doing THAT. How hard could it be? And with a pen name, which all of these obviously are, no one would ever even have to know it was me.” But of course that’s folly – have you ever picked one of these things up, even in jest? Holy raven-haired, quizzical, handsome, emerald-eyed broad-chested Shatner, people. Brain aneurysm territory, I’m serious.

My girl Sars just keeps on giving: check out Walter Kirn’s review of James Frey’s latest pile. Ho shit, this is good stuff!

Sample bit, and not even the meanest: "Then there’s Joe, the drunken bum, who in his drunken bumness is strangely noble. After ending up in Los Angeles for no good reason except that it’s where drifters run out of continent, he 'stood on the sand staring across the ocean' and 'heard one word — here here here.' This is one word repeated three times, of course, and that’s because Frey’s idea of meaningful prose — the kind that conveys not just information but feeling — is that it must possess lots of rhythm, rhythm, rhythm. Minus the commas commas commas."

There is a UIL contest category called “Literary Criticism,” or Lit Crit. It should surprise no one that HHL – a person whose powers of reading comprehension, analysis and synthesis are both vast and spectacularly speedy -- won a state medal in this contest back in the day (which contest I believe he was pressganged into entering by one of the teachers at our mutual alma mater, likely backed by some dire and borderline unethical threat -- good old CB never minded twisting an arm or three, did she?).

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Anonymous Jenn in Sacramento said...

I was so pissed off when I read what's his face book when I learned he straight up lied ... wait ... embellished ... how the hell did manage to get someone to publish him again?? Wow ... I'm a tad bit angry today ... must be air with the fire smoke ... that's my excuse.

Your posts crack me up!

1:53 PM  
Blogger HHL said...

I go years at a time without remembering my Literary Criticism contestancy. Good times. Damn near got me booted out of the Cool Kidz club.

As for the romance novelism, in law school I met a highly intellectually attractive girl (i.e., she was attractive for her intellecualism -- but also she had a kickin' bod -- if I may be allowed to add an irrelevancy (and an anachronistically worded one, at that) whose mother happened to be... a romance novelist. This girl had a party for our section over at her mom's house, which was a normal, affluent-ish suburban home packed to the rafters with brain-rotting paperbacks, some of which she had apparently constructed (I think I won't use the word "written", for the reasons that you point out).

The daughter (who I believe was still not old enough to legally drink, even though she was in law school) first drew the attention of the people in my section when she obnoxiously raised her hand in Property class and, when called upon, went on a long diatribe involving her interpretation of the scene in "The Fountainhead" where Roark blows up the Church, apropos of very little. This immediately and forever identified her to the rest of us as a "gunner", but she was young and sheltered (and had, in fact, read and understood a lot of lit not falling into the categories of Ayn Rand or her mother's chose genre), and so some of us ended up liking her anyway.

I guess that's a long way of saying that I've met one of these romance novelists, but I don't remember a damn thing about her.

4:24 PM  
Blogger bgirl said...

One my friends is an "editor" for the romance novels, which seems like a cruel, cruel vocation to me, but she (in the HHL tradition of parenthetical notation, also an intellectually attractive lady) enjoys it as sport and manages to give "important" feedback while not tearing a giant red X through the whole damned thing.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Panda!!!! said...

In my European History AP class in High School, after I decided I was NOT going to take the AP test, I spent all my class time writing a romance novel, starring all my friends. Names were changed to protect the guilty (hmm... sounds sort of like a blog I know) but the plot mirrored what was going on in real life (in a very warped, fun-house mirror sort of way).

I had another friend illustrate the cover and instead of a Fabio-ho bursting out of his shirt, she opted for a metaphorical representation where the heroine was depicted as a lovely tailed bird trapped in a cage.

10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you do when you were not ever "old enough" to read Lust in the Dust novels as my mom so eloquently called them. YOU read your dad's porn which was stowed under the bathroom sink. so my teen age angst so called romance novels went something like this... he pressed his hard cock against her clit. now my cousin who was 3 yrs older and apparently "old enough" to read LITD novels stories went something like this... his throbbing member pressed firmly towards her warm, moist mound. Now I ask you which grosses you out more? God love Playboy! to this day I have never read a romance novel.

11:39 PM  

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